Trump urges Arab unity over Qatar row

U.S President Donald Trump (R) shaking hands with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, during a bilateral meeting at a hotel in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

U.S President Donald Trump has called the king of Saudi Arabia to urge Gulf unity amid an escalating dispute over Qatar’s alleged support for militants.

“His message was that we need unity in the region to fight extremist ideology and terrorist financing,” a US official told reporters.

Earlier, he said the Saudis’ move to isolate Qatar could mark the “beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism”.

Several countries cut travel and embassy links with Qatar on Monday.

Qatar strongly denies supporting radical Islamism.

The emir of Kuwait is mediating in the dispute and the president of Turkey has also offered to help, saying isolation and sanctions will not resolve the crisis.

The rift has affected oil prices, hit travel and shipping, and left supermarkets in Qatar short of goods.

Mr. Trump had earlier claimed credit for the pressure placed on Qatar, saying his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off”.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump accused Qatar of funding terrorism, saying: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”

In his phone call to King Salman, he was quoted as saying: “It’s important that the Gulf be united for peace and security in the region,”

Separately, the Pentagon thanked Qatar for hosting the largest US air force base in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister called on Qatar to cut ties with Palestinian group Hamas in the occupied territories, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, if it wanted to end its isolation in the Gulf region.

Adel Al-Jubeir said: “Nobody wants to hurt Qatar. It has to choose whether it must move in one direction or another direction.”

But Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Than, said: “There is no single evidence that the Qatar government is supporting radical Islamists.”

On Monday, several countries withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, Qatar’s capital, while some cut transport links and gave Qatari nationals two weeks to leave their territory.

Qatar is heavily dependent on food imports and residents have been queuing at supermarkets to stockpile.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said isolating Qatar would “not resolve any problems” and called for “mutual dialogue”.

“In this respect, we appreciate Qatar’s constructive stance. Trying to isolate Qatar, which certainly carries out an efficient fight against terrorism, will not resolve any problems.” he said.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Mr. Erdogan and to the emir of Qatar in separate telephone calls, saying he was ready to back “all initiatives to encourage calm”.


Zainab Sa’id